Maybe they’re waiting for the rematch, which wouldn’t be until MLS Cup, or maybe it was just too early in the season to make a statement about which team might be the best in the league.
Either way, the Red Bulls and FC Dallas played out a strategic – yet rather tame – scoreless tie Friday night in Frisco, Texas, a well-earned point on the road for the Red Bulls and a likely disappointing result for the home side.
“I think, for us, it was a good point on the road,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “To come against a dangerous, attacking team, one of the most dangerous teams in the league, and to come in here and get a point, and get a shutout, showed that we were ready for the game and that we game-planned and executed the right way.
“We felt that going into this game that the game was going to be there for us from the 75th minute to the 90th, and it was. In the end, it's a little bit frustrating not to find that one play to get us the three points, but in the end, the guys played well, stuck to the game plan, and on a hot night I thought the overall performance was good.”
Not that there weren’t chances. FC Dallas (6-2-3) came into the game with a league-high 17 goals, but a tight Red Bulls defense thwarted most of the attempts and goalkeeper Luis Robles came up with two saves. But it was midfielder Felipe who came up with the save of the night when he used a back-heel with his right foot to clear a shot by Michael Barrios off the line in the 72nd minute.
FD Dallas had another chance four minutes later, but Fabian Castillo wasted the opportunity when he drove his shot from 10 yards over the bar.
The play by Felipe highlighted a strong effort by the Red Bulls defense. The back line of Chris Duvall, Karl Ouimette, Damien Perrinelle and Kemar Lawrence played very well, and that will likely be the starting group while Matt Miazga is at the Under-20 World Cup and Ronald Zubar remains out with an injured hamstring.
“The back line, overall, did really well,” Marsch said. “Castillo is one of the most dangerous players in the league, if not the most dangerous, and we didn't give much away. He had one chance at the end that resulted in almost a broken play, but Chris Duvall was up for the task.
“I think Karl Ouimette did a very good job filling in, and the pairing of him and Damien (Perrinelle) was quite good, and Kemar Lawrence played well. We've used a lot of combinations on the back line, but they've all stepped up and performed admirably, so that's a good sign.”
The Red Bulls were not without their chances. In the 40th minute, the ball fell to the feet of Bradley Wright-Phillips, who couldn’t get his balance fast enough to get a clean shot away, and it was blocked by the defense. And right before the halftime break, Sacha Kljestan broke down the left side and centered a ball to Lloyd Sam at the near post, but the shot trickled wide.
In the second half, a shot by Felipe from 23 yards was easily scooped up by Dallas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, and Wright-Phillips put a soft header on net three minutes into stoppage time that Kennedy had no problem with.
“I thought it was a hard-fought point,” Duvall said. “Both teams came to fight, but we would have liked to get more out of the game. They had a few chances. We had a few good chances, and I think it was a good result for us against a good team, getting a point, but we were looking for more.”
So, did we learn anything from the game?
Surprisingly, Dallas didn’t push the action, which you would have expected from the home team, and as the game went on the offense never found a rhythm. The Red Bulls, however, while not pressing as high due to the heat, controlled the game, had chances to score, and showed a willingness to adapt the game plan to the circumstances.
And that’s a good sign.
“It was a tough game for both sides,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “I think it was a very tactical battle tonight. I thought they sat off us a lot and let us have possession and they were looking to hit us on the counterattack with their dangerous players. We did a good job, for the most part, of containing them. Obviously, they had a couple chances here and there. Felipe had to save one off the line, which was fantastic, but overall I thought it was pretty sloppy from both teams in the attacking third. No one really got a good foothold on the game or created too many dangerous chances. A draw was probably a fair result.
“We got a shutout, that's a positive. I don't think Luis (Robles) had much to do tonight, maybe two chances, one from Castillo and one Felipe saved off the line. We could tighten it up and be a little sharper back there, but overall anytime you get a shutout it's a positive. We can do a better job of being able to play a little bit cleaner out of the back with the ball at our feet.”